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Only These Kinds of People Will Buy Nomination Forms for N100m by Farooq A. Kperogi

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There is an unexampled swarming of the presidential nomination arena by a motley crowd of wannabes. One argument for this is that Muhammadu Buhari and Yemi Osinbajo have been such dreadful catastrophes as “president” and “vice president” that all that anyone who succeeds them has to do to impress Nigerians is to just be marginally better than they are, which doesn’t take a lot. I’ll come back to this point later.

Well, when the All Progressives Congress (APC) increased its presidential nomination fees to N100 million (up from N45 million in 2019 and N27.5 million in 2015), people thought it would thin out the crowd of contestants. But it appears to be doing the opposite. Both the wheat and the chaff—mostly the chaff—now litter the presidential nomination field.

So, what kinds of people would pay a non-refundable fee of N100 million just for a chance to run for the primary election of a political party in which victory isn’t guaranteed, in which a snowball has a better chance of surviving in hell than them winning? I can identify at least four kinds of people.

The first are overly bullish political investors. These are people who see politics as an investment and who are unrealistically overconfident that their investment will yield bountiful returns. For them, political office isn’t an opportunity for service; it’s a doorway to immense personal enrichment.

Many of the presidential wannabes in the major political parties don’t expect to win their party’s nomination. They are simply ploughing back some of the money they stole from the government into long-shot presidential contests as down payments for ministerial positions or other “juicy” appointments from whoever emerges as the president in their political party.

Even if their party doesn’t win the presidential election, nothing is lost because the money didn’t come from their hard work. Plus, politicians are a special breed of hopeless optimists. They see victory even in the menacing jaws of defeat.

This is the logical graduation of a new kind of elite corruption that the Buhari regime birthed in the last few years. No appointment is now merit-driven. From ministerial appointments down to janitorial personnel in the federal civil service, everything is lubricated by bribes.

In a December 17, 2019, article titled “Ministership for Sale: Up to N2.5b Per Slot,” I disclosed that “Four different, dependable, and independent sources who don’t know each other but who’re close to the corridors of power were eerily united in telling me that except for a few ministerial nominations (notably those of Adamu Adamu, Ali Isa Pantami, Mohammed Musa Bello, Raji Fashola whom Buhari himself personally penciled— and those that were conceded to Tinubu) every other post was literally auctioned off to the highest bidder.”

That’s why there are no apolitical “technocrats” in the Buhari cabinet like there used to be in previous administrations. No honest, hardworking, and self-respecting professional would leave their day job and give financial inducement to a cabal of Aso Rock thieves just to be appointed a minister.

Since Buhari and Osinbajo have officially made governance a raucous, in-your-face, no-consequence stealing bazaar, people understand the presidential nomination fees as deposits for a chance to steal with impunity from 2023 onwards. So, it’s a grand political pay-to-play scam.

The second kinds of people who would pay a N100 million nomination fee without seeing it as an investment from which they’ll reap hefty rewards later are rich drug addicts who are trapped in a state of hyper-arousal

dissociation, who live in a drugged and drunken alternate universe.

Who knows if that is why Buba Marwa, the chairman of the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA,) wrote to APC on April 27 asking to be allowed to conduct mandatory drug tests on the plethora of presidential aspirants that are crowding the party’s platform?

Premium Times reported Marwa to have said that he would send a similar letter to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and to other political parties because “Nigeria requires a mentally stable set of leaders to pilot its affairs.”

Like the rest of us, the NDLEA boss must have reasoned that only drug-induced megalomania can inspire some of these aspirants to think they can be president of a complex country like Nigeria that Buhari and Osinbajo have almost destroyed beyond recognition.

I can bet my bottom dollar that several of these delusional presidential wannabes, whom we all know, will fail a drug test, which is why the idea of a drug test will die a natural death.

The third kind of people who will shell out N100 million to buy a presidential nomination form without expectation of dubious rewards in the future are mentally unhinged individuals with lots of stolen money to throw away.

Many of them are obviously psychotic. Psychosis is defined as a “severe mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted.” For example, anyone who genuinely believes that God spoke to him and urged him to run for office is demonstrably psychotic.

I expect the Association of Psychiatrists of Nigeria (APN), in conjunction with the Association of Psychiatric Nurses of Nigeria (APNON), to ask to be allowed to conduct mental health examinations on presidential aspirants. It would be a valid and justified request because there are many undiagnosed psychiatric patients running for office right now.

The fourth group of people who would purchase a N100 million nomination form even if they are political nonentities are political gamblers, that is, corruptly rich, recklessly wasteful risk takers who don’t fear financial loss because they are animated by a desperate hope for gain or just a frisson of excitement.

Of course, my list doesn’t include people who, because of their networks, political pedigree, proximity to power, etc. are within striking distance of winning their party’s nomination and possibly winning the national election. But among such people are easy glory seekers who want to take advantage of the Buhari/Osinbajo unprecedented failure to shine.

As I pointed out in a February 3, 2018, column titled “How Buhari Has Lowered the Bar of Governance,” it would take the littlest of efforts for Buhari’s successor to impress Nigerians because the Buhari regime went from lowering the bar of governance to throwing the entire bar away.

So, because it took Buhari and Osinbajo six months (actually eight months if you consider that they were elected two months before they were inaugurated) to constitute a familiar, predictable cast of underwhelming characters as ministers, any administration that appoints ministers in the first month of being in power would be celebrated.

Because Buhari is habitually unconcerned and indifferent in the face of heartrending national tragedies, any president who shows just a little bit of emotion through sympathy visits and national broadcasts would win hearts and minds.

Because Buhari never fires anyone who underperforms, any president that fires incompetent people, especially in the security sector, would be praised as proactive and sensitive.

Governing boards of government agencies are the engines of governance. It took Buhari and Osinbajo nearly three years to constitute governing board members, which was why I characterized their administration as an example of “ungovernance.” Even when they did, they appointed dead people and people who weren’t consulted before their appointments.

Any president who appoints members of governing boards of government agencies in the first few months of being in power would be hailed as a miracle worker in governance.

These are just a few examples. But this is really distressing because there is much more at stake in the task of governing Nigeria than just transcending Buhari’s incompetence and mediocrity.

Strictly Personal

As a continent, we must confront the emergency of our failure to learn, By Joachim Buwembo

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“As a nation, we must confront the emergency of our failure to learn!” well-circulated news clips showed veteran Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga saying, in reaction to the (lack of) preparedness despite accurate warnings of the floods that by the time he spoke had claimed some 200 lives in the country.

Baba, as Raila is popularly known, must have used the words “as a nation” advisedly for, at the time he was speaking, helicopters were evacuating (wealthy) foreigners from flooded sites as the Kenyan citizens continued drowning.

But Baba might as well have said “as a continent” because of the tendency to watch disaster coming and doing nothing happens in other African countries.

The question then is whether African leaders are doing their best to prevent or contain disasters and, second, the accurately predictable ones occasioned by climate change. The third question is if the best by African leaders is good enough.

If not, then the fourth question is what can be done without alarming the leaders who might become defensive and suspicious of those asking legitimate questions about the protection of life, property and infrastructure. The fifth question is how their capacity to learn can be created by the famous (or notorious) capacity-building workshops.

But, before proceeding, we need to answer a sixth question: Whether failure to learn is an emergency. Failure to learn prevails, otherwise we wouldn’t be acting like the hazards of climate change are unknown phenomena.

I spent a whole year at the beginning of the last decade flying into African capitals from my Nairobi base in service of UNDP and the International Centre for Journalism, training journalists on climate change reporting but, more significantly, lobbying and securing the commitment of chief editors to give priority to the menace threatening humanity.

And there were several senior journalists on the programme, ensuring that the major media in all countries on the continent were reached.

So, even if African leaders were occupied with “more important issues” than climatic threats to lives and livelihoods, if the media had kept highlighting the climate issues beyond reporting about big people periodically meeting in fancy venues to talk about it, the public would be demanding more serious preparedness by their governments. Having to endure senseless but predictable deaths and destruction of infrastructure is, indeed, an emergency.

The seventh question is, who will bell the cat? Who will tell the naked emperors (to be fair some are dressed) that they are naked?

A protocol official who was managing a visiting royal’s schedule once whispered his agonising experience when the foreign monarch overslept after sampling some local somethings, and the mere thought of disturbing the royal sleep was considered sacrilege by the royal entourage, yet the host counterpart was waiting and the clock was ticking away past their meeting time.

The protocol officer had to cause some commotion in the many-star hotel, causing a diplomatic incident to prevent a diplomatic crisis. It takes unusual steps to bell a naked emperor.

Yet the answer to the seventh question already exists: The African Union can, and should, bell the cat. The AU was not created to be a social club for naked emperors; it is meant to make Africa work. But Africa cannot work with the prevailing obstacles to its working: our “Emergency of Failure to Learn!” Don’t abbreviate it, those suffering EFL may think you are talking about a European Football League.

Only last week, Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority (Nema) announced to our largely inattentive public and authorities that the pollution over Kampala is approaching crisis level. The Nema boss reeled off some head-reeling data in particulates per million, summarising it by saying the air over Kampala is eight times above WHO’s permissible levels.

The authorities and public continued yawning.But the Nema fellows dutifully put it clearly that air pollution is now the world’s single leading killer, claiming six to seven million lives annually, about the same number Covid killed in two years, and far more than malaria, HIV, road accidents or anything you can think of.

Nema named Uganda’s top polluters that kill 31,000 a year as vehicles, boda boda, and domestic cooking (charcoal and wood).

When we overcome the EFL and start tackling our EFT (not electronic funds transfer but Emergency of Failure to Think), we may direct the huge electricity quantities we generate but don’t consume to free cooking energy for the urban poor and to mass public transport, thus addressing the identified top causes of death in Uganda.

Nema can talk on but, for as long as we don’t handle our EFL and EFT, their alarm bells won’t move us.

Buwembo is a Kampala-based journalist. E-mail:buwembo@gmail.com

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Strictly Personal

If I were put in charge of a $15m African kitty, I’d first deworm children, By Charles Onyango-Obbo

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One of my favourite stories on pan-African action (or in this case inaction), one I will never tire of repeating, comes from 2002, when the discredited Organisation of African Unity, was rebranded into an ambitious, new African Union (AU).

There were many big hitters in African statehouses then. Talking of those who have had the grace to step down or leave honourably after electoral or political defeat, or have departed, in Nigeria we had Olusegun Obasanjo, a force of nature. Cerebral and studious Thabo Mbeki was chief in South Africa. In Ethiopia, the brass-knuckled and searingly intellectual Meles Zenawi ruled the roost.

In Tanzania, there was the personable and thoughtful Ben Mkapa. In Botswana, there was Festus Mogae, a leader who had a way of bringing out the best in people. In Senegal, we had Abdoulaye Wade, fresh in office, and years before he went rogue.

And those are just a few.

This club of men (there were no women at the high table) brought forth the AU. At that time, there was a lot of frustration about the portrayal of Africa in international media, we decided we must “tell our own story” to the world. The AU, therefore, decided to boost the struggling Pan-African New Agency (Pana) network.

The members were asked to write cheques or pledges for it. There were millions of dollars offered by the South Africans and Nigerians of our continent. Then, as at every party, a disruptive guest made a play. Rwanda, then still roiled by the genocide against the Tutsi of 1994, offered the least money; a few tens of thousand dollars.

There were embarrassed looks all around. Some probably thought it should just have kept is mouth shut, and not made a fool of itself with its ka-money. Kigali sat unflustered. Maybe it knew something the rest didn’t.

The meeting ended, and everyone went their merry way. Pana sat and waited for the cheques to come. The big talkers didn’t walk the talk. Hardly any came, and in the sums that were pledged. Except one. The cheque from Rwanda came in the exact amount it was promised. The smallest pledge became Pana’s biggest payday.

The joke is that it was used to pay terminal benefits for Pana staff. They would have gone home empty-pocketed.

We revive this peculiarly African moment (many a deep-pocketed African will happily contribute $300 to your wedding but not 50 cents to build a school or set up a scholarship fund), to campaign for the creation of small and beautiful African things.

It was brought on by the announcement by South Korea that it had joined the African Summit bandwagon, and is shortly hosting a South Korea-Africa Summit — like the US, China, the UK, the European Union, Japan, India, Russia, Italy, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey do.

Apart from the AU, whose summits are in danger of turning into dubious talk shops, outside of limited regional bloc events, there is no Pan-African platform that brings the continent’s leaders together.

The AU summits are not a solutions enterprise, partly because over 60 percent of its budget is funded by non-African development partners. You can’t seriously say you are going to set up a $500 million African climate crisis fund in the hope that some Europeans will put up the money.

It’s possible to reprise the Rwanda-Pana pledge episode; a convention of African leaders and important institutions on the continent for a “Small Initiatives, Big Impact Compact”. It would be a barebones summit. In the first one, leaders would come to kickstart it by investing seed money.

The rule would be that no country would be allowed to put up more than $100,000 — far, far less than it costs some presidents and their delegations to attend one day of an AU summit.

There would also be no pledges. Everyone would come with a certified cheque that cannot bounce, or hard cash in a bag. After all, some of our leaders are no strangers to travelling around with sacks from which they hand out cash like they were sweets.

If 54 states (we will exempt the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic for special circumstances) contribute $75,000 each, that is a good $4.05 million.

If just 200 of the bigger pan-African institutions such as the African Development Bank, Afrexim Bank, the giant companies such as MTN, Safaricom, East African Breweries, Nedbank, De Beers, Dangote, Orascom in Egypt, Attijariwafa Bank in Morocco, to name a few, each ponied up $75,000 each, that’s a cool $15 million just for the first year alone.

There will be a lot of imagination necessary to create magic out of it all, no doubt, but if I were asked to manage the project, I would immediately offer one small, beautiful thing to do.

After putting aside money for reasonable expenses to be paid at the end (a man has to eat) — which would be posted on a public website like all other expenditures — I would set out on a programme to get the most needy African children a dose of deworming tablets. Would do it all over for a couple of years.

Impact? Big. I read that people who received two to three additional years of childhood deworming experience an increase of 14 percent in consumption expenditure, 13 percent in hourly earnings, and nine percent in non-agricultural work hours.

At the next convention, I would report back, and possibly dazzle with the names, and photographs, of all the children who got the treatment. Other than the shopping opportunity, the US-Africa Summit would have nothing on that.

Charles Onyango-Obbo is a journalist, writer, and curator of the “Wall of Great Africans”. X@cobbo3

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